Fun With NHLe Projections, Part 1: How'd the Rookies Do?

Before we try to project the Kings' prospects heading into next season, we should make sure it was worth the effort, right?

It's that time of year again! Time to figure out which prospects are inevitably going to disappoint us by not becoming 100-point scorers in the NHL. Our preferred method at Jewels from the Crown for determining just HOW disappointed we'll be: NHL equivalencies, or NHLe for short.

What is NHLe? Quoting from Robert P's NHLe roundups of years past...

Through the efforts of hockey analytics big-shots Gabe Desjardins and Rob Vollman (among others) we are able to approximate a prospect's NHL equivalent point totals. Each league has different equivalency numbers which you can adjust according to a players age. Obviously, NHLe has its limitations, but it is a useful way to do a quick and dirty analysis. It is basically just a way to put all prospects spread out in various leagues on the same playing field so that you can compare them against one another.

A word of warning to elaborate on the above: these NHLe projections account for the historical performance of players based on their point production outside of the NHL. These projections do not account for the following: age, draft position, size, team role, ice time, organizational philosophy, grit, dietary habits, and pregame music selection. There are a ton of factors which influence a player's production in the NHL; think about those when you look at the numbers.

Now then: after the 2013-14 season, we ranked all of the Los Angeles Kings' prospects by their NHLe projected point totals. Let's check out the five players who cracked NHL lineups this year to see how their production matched up. All five players came from the AHL.

NHLe Projections vs. Actual Performance in 2014-15

2013-14 AHL Stats 2013-14 NHLe Projection 2014-15 NHL Stats 2014-15 NHL Stats (82-Game Pace)
Tanner Pearson 41 17 15 32 18 16 34 42 12 4 16 23 8 31
Brayden McNabb 52 10 26 36 8 22 30 71 2 22 24 2 25 27
Nick Shore 68 14 24 38 9 15 24 34 1 6 7 2 14 16
Andy Andreoff 76 11 24 35 6 14 20 18 2 1 3 9 5 14
Linden Vey 43 14 34 48 14 34 49 75 10 14 24 11 15 26

So based on the four players who cracked the Kings' lineup this season, NHLe was pretty accurate (though slightly optimistic) when it came to predicting NHL output. Let's go one by one:

Linden Vey: Vey is an outlier from the above in a couple of ways. Number one, he's not a King; second: his NHLe projection was way, way off. That projection may have already been generous at the outset -- 49 points would have put him fourth in scoring among rookies last season behind the Stone-Gaudreau-Forsberg Calder-nominated trio -- but his season in Vancouver was pretty disappointing overall. The Kings turned Vey in to Roland McKeown, who turned into Andrej Sekera, who turned into an Edmonton Oiler. Nobody wins.

Tanner Pearson: Pearson's goal-scoring ability in 2014-15 exceeded the expectations of even the most hopeful LA fans, as he led all rookies in goals before falling off the pace and then falling into the boards in January. Given a plum assignment on Jeff Carter's wing, he still didn't quite meet the NHLe projection set out for him, due to a lack of assists, a lack of ice time, and a December swoon. Safe to say that 34 points is probably a minimum expectation for Pearson in 2015-16.

Brayden McNabb: Like Pearson, McNabb came up just short of his NHLe projection. In his case, it was his goal-scoring and not his assist-dishing which lagged behind. McNabb will get a boost in ice time and, in all likelihood, a boost in shooting percentage next season. Having said that, he already received more responsibility than expected in 2014-15; it might be tough to duplicate 22 assists.

Nick Shore: The Shore Boy also struggled to beat opposing goaltenders this season, denting his point totals noticeably. The young center scored one goal on 33 shots, with that one goal coming fortuitously; a league-average shooting percentage would have put Shore almost exactly on his NHLe projection. If he ends up playing third-line minutes with Dwight King and Dustin Brown, for example, a repeat performance would be a disaster.

Andy Andreoff: Nine goals over an 82-game season? Amazing what an empty-netter in the last game of the season and a small sample size can do. Without that empty-netter, Andreoff would have notched two points in 18 games, underscoring the general difficulty Andreoff and his fellow fourth-liners encountered in the latter half of 2014-15. It's anyone's guess how many games Andreoff will play in 2015-16, but assuming he doesn't spend most of his time with Jordan Nolan, he might actually be able to pot six goals.

Finally, a footnote to the above: Tyler Toffoli's 18-game stint in the AHL in 2013-14 resulted in 15 goals and 8 assists, which over a full season would have given him an NHLe projection of 36 goals and 56 points. Toffoli "only" had 23 goals but ended up with 49 points, a 53-point pace over a full season. So if you weren't surprised by Toffoli's terrific sophomore season, well, you were right.

All in all, these NHLe projections had some value last year. Later this week, we'll show you what NHLe projects predict for the current crop of Kings prospects (including Jordan Weal, Derek Forbort, and Michael Mersch) based on the 2014-15 season. Stay tuned!